Monday, April 30, 2012

Letting go of the fear

The idea of a life at sea is so compelling for me that I didn’t let my complete lack of experience stop me from barreling forward, tripping over my flippers to get here. But in the back of my mind, I knew that deep down it terrified me.
I do know that experience squelches fear and practice makes perfect, or at least calm. I am counting on this, and I know JW is doing the same, as he sees the noticeable tension across my face each time we decide to move.
I am at home when Shiloh is safely at anchor, all the moving over with, the GPS having given us the peace of mind that we are held in place, that the anchor is nestled snugly into the mud deep below us.
But I do not handle stress well when it comes to the boat. Our anchor has been giving trouble since we collected Shiloh from her charter company. When we’ve swung into a nice position in a bay, and JW calls out for me to drop, I begin with the remote and the anchor disappears into the water, the chain pummeling after it, heavy and loud and ominous. 
 And then when I let go, the chain doesn’t stop. I start imagining the chain flying so fast, pulling so hard that it will just fly off and we will be left without an anchor, the boat floating dangerously close to our neighbors in the new bay and with the knowledge we cannot actually anchor or stop anywhere. And then my heart races and my hands shake. I become useless as a first mate. All I want to do is jump up and down and cry or retreat below deck and bury my face in a pillow.  Anyone who sails, knows this is a completely irrational, unnecessary and counter-productive response. It simply doesn’t help. Neither does panic at the suggestion that we try out the new autopilot, since the memory is still strong, of how we reached out into heavy seas and the autopilot decided we should turn in jerky, bouncing, jarring circles. Sigh…
My mind plays tricks on me - it teases me with the worst case scenario - at any given moment we could end up beached on rocks, overturned or drifted out to sea with no instruments...
I believe this post is cathartic. Therapeutic. I’ve admitted my silly fears, in the hopes of killing them off one by one, so I can get on with enjoying not just the new bays, with their inviting patches of white beach and pretty ice blue reef patches, but the sailing as well. The amazing freedom of wind in your face, Shiloh the strong and brave vessel, carrying us along to somewhere new.
Each day a new lesson, a bit more experience, a feeling of belonging and purpose and each day the fear dissipates. That is the plan!
As I look around me, I see people of every description who embrace the beautiful, rewarding side of sailing. They are calm and confident and they face technical glitches with reason and logic and steady hands. It doesn't matter what size or age of the boat, if you have confidence, it is a beautiful thing.
Some Grenada boys heading out to sea
Sailors since birth - calm and at home on the ocean.


  1. One who truly loves the sea in fact fears it ( I am not 100% sur ethis is the correct verb ...)

  2. Well it must be true. There is a respect for the sea that every true sailor has. I'm working on evolving from fear to respect!

  3. Since we're still in the preparation phase of cruising, I can tell you that I know I've got fear tucked away for now. I'm sure it's going to rear its ugly head once we start cruising, and we can't wait to get some experience behind us. It's good to know that everyone has some fear and we're not alone!

  4. Yes, I think the fear dissipates, but doesn't disappear. I just linked to this post - read some other posts on "fear" on